In praise of Grandparents that go above and beyond….
By Kirsty Gordon, JustKids Coordinator
Upon retirement, many grandparents expect to have a rich role with their grandchildren while also having time for themselves and other interests.
For grandparents raising their grandchildren full time, that’s just not the case. In my job as the Justkids coordinator, I see many grandparents upwards of 70 years old, and even in one case a great-grandparent in her 80s, raising their grandchildren to adulthood, usually because their own children are either suffering from addiction or are incarcerated. Most live on small fixed incomes and it is financially and physically debilitating for them.
I see their struggles. They are at times resented by both the parent and children. Children often feel conflicted and angry. Yet, grandparents have to negotiate the contact children can have with their parents and it is painful for them, as they care about all concerned.
One grandmother of a little boy with severe behavioral issues who attends our programs told me her husband left her because he just couldn’t handle the extreme upset that was a daily occurrence in the household. She is left to cope alone with no support. Both her grandchild’s parents are imprisoned. With failing health, little income, and a child with significant problems, she is trying her best because there is no one else and she knows without her, he will have no family.
Our JustKids programs offer support to both caregivers and children. We can be a friendly ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on. The Saturday Club and Blue Sky camps offer grandparents respite, time to recharge their batteries and have some ‘me-time’. Children have a place to unload and have fun. I received a letter from a great grandmother who is looking after her imprisoned grandchild’s 3 boys aged 4, 7 and 8. Here is an excerpt…
“They do a mixture of fun and learning activities. It gives me a break, and I feel really safe in letting the children go with the people that run Saturday Club. They seem to love and care for the children. I don’t know of any other program of its kind for children of a parent in prison.”
At the end of the day, these grandparents are the reason the children grow up with roots of stability, love and care to help guide them through the stigma of having a parent in prison. Please spare a thought for these incredible caregivers on Grandparent’s Day, as they are the ones ensuring that these kids’ futures are bright.